A classical form of Indian paintings, embedded with sparkling gold and precious stones, is still popular in the southern region of the country; the traditional art originated about six centuries ago.
The “Tanjore paintings” are a heritage value art-form that got its name from a place located in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
A national award winning middle aged painter, V. Panneer Selvam, whose ancestors were Tanjore art painters, started to paint when he was a teenager.
“I learned from my uncle and he learned from his father, his guru (the master),” Selvam said.
Traditionally the paintings were done on a wooden plank layered with a cloth. The subjects of the paintings were usually gods, saints, and mythological stories, which were drawn with vegetable colors. Their ornaments and surroundings, all contoured with designs created from lime, were finally covered with gold foil.
“The gold designs are embedded with Kundan and Jarkan stones (Indian gemstones). We use 22 carat gold foil,” he said. “The only change is that we have started to paint with poster colors,” he added.
Till date no records are available to track how the painting style has originated 600 years ago. However, the art form enjoyed great patronage from the rulers of that region, who also patronized many other classical art forms like dance and architecture.
Making Tanjore paintings is a hectic and long process; Selvam takes on average seven days to finish a small 8 by 10 inches painting.
Nowadays the characters in the paintings have changed to include the demands and likes of the people who buy them. Pointing to huge a painting of the Buddhist goddess Tara, done in the Thai style, Selvam said that someone from America had ordered it.
“We do have clients who value the tradition and buy,” he said.
Selvam highlighted a fact that earlier there were not many Tanjore painters, but now due to increased demand many people have taken it up. “There are at least 50 people making Tanjore paintings in Tanjavur city itself,” he explained.
Recently, he displayed his paintings for sale in a public exhibition in Bangalore. He said that on festival days, companies tend to buy paintings for their employees. Selvam has also traveled to Malaysia, Singapore, and Canada to exhibit his paintings.